Facts about ants

Although ants are generally harmless, they don't make pleasant house guests. Read our guide for practical tips on how to get rid of them from your home.

Although ants are generally harmless, they don't make pleasant house guests. In this article you can find out how to identify an ant, learn about the habits of these sociable little insects and get practical tips on how to get rid of them.

Fascinating ant facts

  • There are over 12,000 species of ant around the world.

  • Ants are very strong and can lift up to 20 times their own body weight.

  • Ants don't have ears. They 'hear' by picking up vibrations in the ground through their feet.

  • Ants take in oxygen through tiny holes all over their body, as they don't have lungs.

How to identify an ant

The most common type of ant found in the UK is the black or garden ant. These ants usually measure from 3-9 mm, have three pairs of legs and bodies divided into three sections.

Ant behaviour

Ants live together in large colonies, which can consist of millions of ants. When foraging for food, they leave a scent trail (pheromone trail) along their route, to allow others from the colony to track down more food from the same source.

Colonies consist of three different types of ant:

  • Queen(s)

  • Female workers

  • Males

What do ants eat?

Ants love sugar! They're attracted to sweet substances but are an omnivorous insect, which means they'll eat any type of edible substance they can find. They also need water to survive.

What attracts ants?

Ants are most likely to enter your home in search of food and may target:

  • Uncovered food

  • Exposed pet food

  • Empty food packaging or containers

Where do ants live?

Ants tend to build their nests:

  • In lawns

  • In flower beds

  • Beneath paving stones

  • At the base of walls

If an ant nest is disturbed, the colony will move to a new location. Once a colony has been disturbed, it won't return to nest in the same place again.

Are ants harmful?

Ants tend to be viewed as a nuisance but those found in the UK are generally harmless.

Black or garden ants don't bite or carry disease. However bear in mind that any ants you find in your home may have travelled through dirty places and could contaminate uncovered food.

What's more, ants often kill and eat other common pests such as flies (which spread germs) and fleas (which bite).

How do I know if I have an ant problem?

If you suspect that you've got an ant problem in or around your home, keep an eye out for:

  • Individual ants wandering around the home

  • Nests in your garden and around your house

How do I get rid of ants in my home?

The main reason ants will enter your home is to search for food, so ensure that you:

  • Keep your home clean of crumbs

  • Store all food in sealed containers

  • Regularly wipe down surfaces

  • Avoid leaving dirty dishes standing in the sink

  • Seal any small gaps around windows and doors

For a natural and inexpensive way to oust ants, try sprinkling some salt, turmeric powder or paprika where they are entering your home, which will repel them.

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